Thursday, January 24, 2013

Far Off Songs

I could hear them fighting in the other room.  Every few seconds Jonas’ high pitch scream would pierce through the music I was listening to, it would crawl under my skin and make me shiver. 
I could hear them fighting over the tablet playing cartoons. As I listened to the vocal coaching on my computer and tried to sing along and practice, their constant bickering moved through the glass door and found me and pushed me away from my concentration. 
I could imagine Noah trying pull the computer more towards him and Jonas pulling back, finally strong enough now to defend himself against his older brother.
It was the endless struggle for property that would stay with them until death.  Territory and desire and anger, they were fully present even at three years old. They were even more evident than in adults, due to the lack of social flitters and niceties and the many disguises the adult world has devised to cloak those inner urges.  When those little boys wanted the computer, the cookie, the train they took it. Available responses of the other was tears, or a scream or to hit back.
I could not hear any response from Noah, so I assumed he was the perpetrator.  I had stopped trying to intervene.  I had grown tired of trying to make them share, or warning them, threatening to take it away, now I had just grown silent. I had other things to do.  I sunk back into the music and left them alone, it would be survival of the strongest.
Occasionally I heard Jonas’ weapon of choice: that scream. The high pitched wail irked me from the inside, one of those sounds which physically chilled me and made me shake and try and shrug off the noise.  I closed the door to the living room.  They were going to do what they were going to do.  There could be no reasoning, they were too young, they were little machines. 
The boys used to sit with me as I did my vocal work. When Jonas had just learned to sit up by himself I would put him on a chair next to me and he would look at me with huge, smiling eyes and laugh at some of the sounds.  Noah would sometimes sing along and then we would dance.
Just a few years later and fully human, they were more interested in Dora and Umizumi and their computers and ignored me as much as I tried to look past their fighting. The babies had recognized the work, they could sit with me, patiently waiting sometimes as I went through the things I wanted to do; these little people did not.
They had fallen.  It was only a matter of time, all beings must descend, become human, become mere machines.
Maybe one day they would stop fighting and hear me singing from the other room. Maybe they would remember some of our early nights together when we sat in three chairs in the living room and they would come out to join me once again: singing, dancing, laughing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dig In

Dig in with my feet. Dig in with those callused hands cracking and smelling of blood and iron.
Those hands of yours with the roses sprouting from below the white nails are leading to my bed where the sockets sizzle and burn, sometimes exploding like certain moments in a hot jungle with a stove nearby and a woman in a blue uniform caressing the colored light between us. Ouch, the fire of electricity snaps me up. Eyes, open. We know where we are.
Eyes open, we look out the window together and regard the little bird at the top of the tree. Ouch.  Another slap and yes, I am listening.  There is nothing that hurts more than a blind ear.  A deaf eye.  A mute look.
We stare out the window.  Stare.  Stare and state the purpose. Bird out on the tree, sitting on the tippy top, bending the last of that cypress flare.
What hurts more?  Out the window, looking in this bed and discovering the world beneath the covers.  Covers are for the modest and asses out- the narrow light coming through the window catches us, immodest and glaring white and covered with hair. 
The savages have come with urine scented hair and teeth, the shamans rarely stand on hilltops with white robes. No- the tribe has arrived, beautifully described with yellow teeth hanging from rope necklaces made of human hair- skulls used easily as drinking cups. All manner of earthly remains used for decorations and I was hoping to get one for the small altar.
Pain is my friend, without it I forget.  Without it I would forget myself in this warm house covered in sugar and red and white candies and the fluff of terrycloth and inertia. Pain is nothing my friend. Pain is everything.
I look into your eyes, share that spark once again.  The sockets will be jealous as will the memory of a story in my mind.
Can they see us now? Our colors pouring out the small shaft not always meant for light- grunting and brutal- the light hits us from behind, illuminating our forms on the white walls, casting a shadow that travels out and up- beating against the wall of the room, radiating out out out and up up up until we no longer recognize it, have forgotten what was done on the bed in the name of pain and practice and exchange. 
But the clouds are there and have been since we began, and they seize it all up and turn it into seed and send it back.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Christmas Transgression

For several years I walked past the little tabletop rosemary trees at Trader Joe's. I drove past the Christmas tree lots donned with white lights and rows of fragrant fir and each time I thought of getting a small tree for my room. 
For years, every December I would think of buying a living tree from some nursery, or just a tinny-tiny little one that could fit on my kitchen table.  I remembered the History Channel special that described the winter tree as a pagan ritual, but I also remembered my mother’s threat to me and my sister:
“I hope you know that when I die I’ll be looking down at you from heaven and if you ever have a Christmas tree, I’ll be very disappointed.” 
My sister was so small standing behind me. We seemed, the three of us, illuminated by a bright stage lamp used in theater productions.
And each time I thought of getting a tree, as I drove past the lots, I would caution myself. After all, did I really need to spend $20 on a tree?

Today I walked into the lot. Something had come over me, some type of determination that could not be swayed by price, or dire warnings, or the guilt of a thousand generations. 
The small lot was rich with the sweet-sour smell of northern fir.  Children ran between the rows of towering trees and young couples holding each other close for warmth stood by while their chosen tree was assembled with base and stand. 
Looking around I knew that these were common memories for them all- people who had picked and decorated their trees every year, memories that began before they could form words. For the children, they would perpetuate the tradition. One day these children would bring their own children to these lots, and they would watch as they ran and played and hid behind the cut, fragrant giants. 
I stood virgin to them all, wondering if they could perhaps sense my alien nature, my shinning brightness that had no precedent.

A big black man with an African accent stood beside me as I pointed to the two foot tree. 
“I’ll take that one.” 
The narrow trunk ended at a wooden “x” which was nailed into the bottom, allowing the tree to stand upright. 
“So I just put this whole thing in a bowl of water?’
He looked at me with a perplexed look.  “How are you going to do that?”
I imagined a very large bowl but was unable to bring it out into the open. 
“I don’t know,” I said smiling a little nervously, “I’ve never done this before.”
“You never had a Christmas tree before?”
“No,” I said smiling, shaking my head.
“I don believe it.  You need a bowl,” he said authoritatively.
He took the tree from my hands and used a hammer to knock off the wooden cross it stood on, then attached a plastic bowl and another wooden “x” below it held together by a single nail.

As I walked out of the lot holding the tree in front of me like a giant gift finally attained, a wide, somewhat guilty smile on my face, a feeling of happiness and a rush of energy overtook me.
I felt as if people could tell. Did they see the obvious clash of symbols with my Semitic nose?  I was not supposed to be holding one of these.  No matter how much Brandon Tulley tried to persuade our Hebrew school teacher twenty-five years ago, there was no such thing as a Hanukkah bush.  I could hear my mother’s warning through the day: "not even dead."

I spent the next few days decorating the tree with small shells and pearls and beads from my collection.  A ribbon of bright green sequins wrapped around its trunk.  This was the tree I was not born to have, yet it was here, atop my small fridge.